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NEA President Dennis Van Roekel: Tonight, we are all Ohio Buckeye message to educators, nurses, firefighters: we got your back


WASHINGTON - November 08, 2011 -

Voters in Ohio have overwhelmingly approved a referendum to repeal Senate Bill 5, a controversial bill signed into law by Gov. John Kasich. The bill was designed to silence the voices and strip away the collective bargaining rights of public workers. Ohioans reacted to the politically motivated attack by taking matters into their own hands. They collected more than a million signatures to trigger a citizen veto process to put a referendum of the unpopular law on the November 8th ballot.

"Tonight, we are all Ohio," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "The good people of the Buckeye state sent an unequivocal message to those who play politics with the lives of teachers, nurses, and firefighters: we got your back. That's because hard working families built the middle class. These are the people who teach our children and protect our communities and our country. This vote is a trumpeting reminder of America's promise to its people and our fundamental rights to shape our democracy and create a brighter future for every American."

"This vote indicates Ohioans not only support public employees, but they also understand that we have been problem solvers and have done so by making more than $1 billion in sacrifices in just the last three years," said Ohio Education Association President Patricia Frost-Brooks, whose union represents 128,000 educators. "Policy makers behind Issue 2 must respond to the results of this election with fairness for public employees and commitment to safety and service toward our communities. Ohio needs and deserves a full-time focus on jobs and the education of students for good jobs and careers."

Ohio voters came together and formed We are Ohio, a citizen-driven, community-based, bipartisan coalition to stop Senate Bill 5.  NEA members played a critical role in We are Ohio's success-pounding the streets, knocking on doors and phone banking their way to repeal of SB5. During the past several weeks of intense campaigning, NEA members have encouraged friends, family, neighbors to vote to repeal SB5. NEA deployed 177 staff members and resources from 22 states to help defeat Issue 2. The Ohio Education Association, NEA's state affiliate, fielded the largest number of volunteers of any group or organization working on the campaign-one out of every four volunteers who hit the streets to campaign against Issue 2 belonged to the Ohio Education Association.

"Issue 2 was a purposeful attack on teachers," said Courtney Johnson, a high school English teacher in Ironton, Ohio. Johnson became one of the faces of the We Are Ohio campaign to defeat Issue 2. "They said this was about the budget, but it was never about the budget. This was about taking away the rights of middle class Ohioans."

Kindergarten teacher Theresa Foster, who identifies herself as a staunch Republican and whose husband is serving in Afghanistan, says that Issue 2 was not about politics-she said it was about power, political payback and very bad policy.

"Attacking educators and other public employees is not what I expected and it's not what the Republican Party stands for," said Foster, who teaches at Glendening Elementary School in Groveport, Ohio. Foster was outraged by how elected leaders in her own party tried to pass such an extreme law that it caused her to go door to door to campaign against Issue 2. "I took a pay cut like many educators and have shared in the sacrifices. I'm disappointed in the leaders of my party, and I'll be watching them from here on out."

 "This decisive vote should be a wakeup call for politicians who go too far or who are considering following in on the footsteps of Gov. Kasich," concluded Van Roekel. "They'll have to think twice before launching politically motivated and unfair attacks on public workers. There is a price to pay for turning your back on the middle class in
Ohio. NEA is proud to have helped our members and working families in Ohio stand strong."

To view a video of NEA and OEA members in action, please click here: WE ARE OHIO - YouTube

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2  million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823, mgonzalez@nea.org